Ethical AI Roadmap to Accelerate Social Innovation – Report

A report released today provides social innovators with a comprehensive roadmap to harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) more ethically and effectively.

A report released today by the Schwab Foundation’s Global Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship provides social innovators with a comprehensive roadmap to harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) more ethically and effectively.

The report, AI for Impact: The PRISM Framework for Responsible AI in Social Innovation, developed in collaboration with Microsoft and EY, builds on insights gathered from over 300 social innovation case studies and expert interviews. The paper introduces a PRISM (Principles for Responsible Implementation, Scale and Management of AI) Framework – a guide to progressive and responsible AI adoption for positive impact, which also highlights the risks and shortcomings to be addressed for an equitable implementation.

“There are about 10 million social enterprises globally, generating $2 trillion in annual revenues – more than the apparel industry. Importantly, they are at the helm of innovation, leading the way on new solutions and business models for a more sustainable and inclusive world,” said Daniel Nowack, Head of the Global Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. “AI holds immense potential for accelerating impact and driving positive social change. We must provide social enterprises with the necessary support to leverage this technology and implement it ethically. The PRISM Framework provides guidelines for responsible AI use, ensuring that technology serves humanity’s most pressing needs.”

Over half (54%) of social innovators are currently leveraging AI to enhance core products or services, and nearly 30% are using it to develop entirely new solutions. Yet critical gaps are hindering broader adoption, as per the new report. Notably, gender disparities persist, with just 25% of women-led social enterprises employing AI, compared to half of all social enterprises more widely. In addition, ethical and equity challenges continue to present significant barriers. For example, most commercially available models are trained on data from high-income countries, delivering sub-par results for low- and middle-income countries.

“Social innovators are showing us great examples of how AI can be used to drive positive social and environmental impact. When aligned with a clear social mission, AI can help accelerate and scale how organizations address the complex global challenges we face as a planet,” said Jean-Philippe Courtois, Executive Vice-President and President, National Transformation Partnerships, Microsoft. “This is an important report, providing best practices that can guide organizations across various industries and readiness levels, to harness the transformative power of AI.”

The PRISM Framework outlined in the new report introduces three interconnected layers of implementation, illustrated with case studies.

Impact mission and strategy: The first layer recognizes that social innovators are impact-first organizations. As a result, AI implementation strategies will be informed by their impact goals, core values and principles. For example, health innovator SAS Brasil has prioritized ethical data collection and research integrity as central to its impact mission to bring quality healthcare to communities.

Adoption pathways: The second layer highlights six different implementation routes aligned with an organization’s readiness for AI. It starts with “conscious tinkering”, a low-investment and low-risk approach. For instance, Ashoka, a platform for social innovators, started its AI journey with ChatGPT-4 Turbo to analyse transcripts of its board meetings and provide recommendations for process improvements. Conscious tinkering transforms an enterprise into an AI-first organization. For example, the e-learning platform Geekie has embedded AI into every facet of its operation, from training plans to remedial work.

Capabilities and risks: The third layer maps each pathway against corresponding capabilities and risks, broken down under five categories: ethics, data, the business and organization, technology, and cost and metrics. This is complemented with practical steps to address each area of concern.

“The PRISM Framework is a critical tool to not only advance the use of AI in social entrepreneurship but to do so with the utmost integrity and responsibility,” said Gillian Hinde, EY Global Corporate Responsibility Leader. “We believe that AI can be a force multiplier for good and it needs to be implemented with a clear ethical compass. This framework is a crucial step towards responsible AI adoption ensuring that all social innovators have the tools they need to drive meaningful and equitable change.”

This report is the second in a three-part “AI for Impact”series that aims to mobilize expertise and resources behind the application of AI to solve global environmental and societal challenges. The first report in this series, AI for Impact: The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Social Innovation, was also published by the Schwab Foundation’s Global Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship in collaboration with EY and Microsoft.

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